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By Kap Maceda Aguila
THE INFLUX of Chinese automotive brands continues. This time, it’s Hongqi (pronounced “hong-chi”).
Established in 1958, the name of the oldest passenger marque in China means “red flag.” Its releases were previously reserved only for high-ranking state officials. On its website, Hongqi said that its cars in the ’60s and ’70s were “a banner of China’s automobile industry.” Today, Hongqi is controlled by China FAW Group Corp., Ltd., the second-largest state-owned car manufacturer behind SAIC Motor.
“We are extremely proud to bring this legendary car marque to the Philippines and let Filipinos finally experience for themselves the many reasons why Hongqi remains such an enduring international brand,” said EVOxTerra President Rashid Delgado at a press conference in Taguig, where it was also announced that EVOxTerra has been appointed the official Hongqi distributor here.
Added FAW Hongqi Oversees General Manager Wang Zuoquan in a release, “We are very excited to finally enter the Philippine market and give Filipino car enthusiasts the Hongqi brand of utmost luxury, state-of-the-art design, and top-notch performance.” Meanwhile, EVOxTerra Vice-President and General Manager Robert Shaw added, “With the country well on its way to recovery from the pandemic, we think this is an excellent time to further expand Hongqi’s global footprint.”
Hongqi’s first dealership in the country will rise at the Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Taguig and, in an exclusive interview with “Velocity,” Mr. Delgado revealed that the company will also look at other “strategic locations with high foot traffic or high visibility” like shopping malls. “Nontraditional locations and facilities” such as boutique or pop-up stores may be in the offing as well. The goal, explained the executive, is to provide more touch points for the brand.
Even as Hongqi targets the BGC location to open in June or July, EVOxTerra has already commenced pre-selling activities on the two models it unveiled with the announcement of appointment: the Hongqi E-HS9 large sport utility vehicle with a fully electrified powertrain — serving as the brand’s flagship offering — and the H5 sedan, powered by an internal combustion engine.
“Velocity” asked EVOxTerra officials to comment on the market reception of Chinese brands and, additionally, how they expect Hongqi to be perceived as the first contender from that country in the luxury segment here. “I think we’ve reached an inflection point in the market, with the introduction of many new Chinese brands,” began Mr. Delgado. “I think the perception of Chinese brands as having poor quality has long passed us. We already see the market is confident in Chinese products. We think this is the time to introduce even a luxury brand and we feel that Hongqi is by far the oldest — so, this is a great partner at a great time. If you look at it from a historical perspective, Chinese brands are where Japanese brands were at maybe 40, 50 years ago when they were first being introduced to the market. They were then considered of poor quality, but that perception is long gone.”
He continued, “I think we’ve past that tipping point where we can no longer say that about Chinese brands. If you look at the products at face value, you could already say that they are of equal or even better quality compared to competing brands from other countries.”